It is simply not worth the bother. Do not delude yourself that a cigarette in hand will win you admiring looks. Puffing away is neither hep nor healthy.

In high school, our group of friends was the most closely knit and the best known group of five, admired by the juniors and acknowledged by the teachers. We did very well academically. Vivek, Abdul, Albert, Akshay and me. The formidable five. No one said it openly but we competed to be at the top, to get the best grades, wear the best clothes and be the most popular. Money was never lacking. Someone would always provide. After all, our folks had enough to spare. We were all equal on the face of it, but wait. There was me. Not very tall, 5.5” in my socks. I had a problem making new friends and meeting people. Heck, I was too shy. Vivek, who was the unelected group leader, looked great. His hair was naturally wavy and when he flicked back that arrogant lock which hovered over those grey-green eyes. God, he looked good. Some guys had all the luck.

Since last month he had further added to his charisma-a cigarette had appeared between his fingers. The overall picture was just toot much for the girls to resist. How I wished I could adopt that casual air of nonchalance. I was dejected. Then one day, Vivek called me to the cigarette. Me and a fag? That was too much. What would the old man say? But wait, he did not have to know. I ran home to see how I looked. The mirror in the bathroom never told a lie. The cigarette looked great, no, – I looked like I had class. I was pleased. Tomorrow, New Year’s eve and what and effect I would create on the crowd.

That was the summer when I had just turned 15. I have never looked back since then. Until now. That desperate need for recognition and acceptance translated into adult behavior. Tobacco was my constant companion – my support when I was lonely. My constant companion to share my happy moments with – my everything.
I am 45 now. The other day I noticed a small white patch on the inside of my left cheek. There was no pain, it only felt a little thickened, a bit rough. There was also less feeling in that area. The other funny thing was that when I wanted to put that pani-puri into my mouth, I found I could not open my mouth wide. Hey, what’s going on? I decided to go to a dentist. Here is what he told me.

White patches may be one of the earliest signs of cancer of the mouth. Oral cancer is about four times more common in tobacco users that those who do not smoke or chew tobacco. Smokers are also at great risk of gum disease where the supporting fibres and bones of the teeth are destroyed and cause loosening of the teeth. In fact this problem is more common than cancer. In smokers the amount of bone loss increases with smoking. Smoking exerts mainly a system of influence and affects the tooth supporting structures by interfering with the body (root) response system. Also smokers are at great risk of tooth decay. Treatment for controlling existing gum disease also holds out less chance of healing with people who smoke.

The possible method by which smoking affects dental health is not clear. There are 2000 to 4000 chemicals in each 50mg inhalation of material a smoker inhales with every puff.

Tobacco smoking or chewing – is definite self-destructive behavior. Look at all that you stand to lose – your peace, your health, your sanity and your teeth.

June 9, 2014